Failure to Reach Settlement on Both Sides in Family Detention Lawsuit


Both immigrants’ rights attorneys and the U.S. Justice Department have failed to come to an agreement in a family detention lawsuit over the conditions that families in immigrant detention centers face.

Attorneys on both sides have been attempting to strike a deal since U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee issued a tentative ruling back in April that the current family detention system violates an 18-year-old court settlement that bars immigrants children from being held in unlicensed, secure facilities.

Peter Schey, executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, said that immigrant rights attorneys were disappointed at the fact that they did not see more willingness from the government to honor the earlier settlement.

Millions of dollars were spent into two large detention centers by the government for women and children after thousands of immigrants families, in particular mothers and children from Central America, crossed the border into Texas last summer. Many claiming they were fleeing gang and domestic violence back in their home countries.

In Gee’s possible and tentative ruling, she found that detaining the children violates parts of a 1997 settlement of an earlier case. The settlement requires that immigrant children be released only to foster care or relatives, and if they must be held, they are to be kept in the least restrictive environment possible in facilities licensed to care for the children.

She also mentioned that the settlement covered all of the children under the custody of federal immigration officials, including those with a parent, and that the new detention facilities are secure and not properly licensed for children.

The Justice Department argued that it was necessary to modify the settlement and use detention to try and deter more immigrants from coming to the border after last year’s increase.

The government also mentioned that it was a way to keep families together while their immigration cases were being reviewed.

Since Gee’s possible ruling, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has committed to making the facilities more child-friendly and provide better oversight.